Witnesses of the Future. Islamic Project,
a series of digital collages, objects, installation, performance
a series of handmade carpets, readymade objects, installation
Sculpture-object, mixed-media installation
Islamic Project serves as an ironic commentary on the prejudice and fear of “Western Man” toward the Islamic world, told as a hyperbolic parody of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations. The project began in 1996 as a series of digital collages, presented in Moscow at Guelman Gallery as a series of small posters of A3 format and distributed on printed postcards, depicting deictic views of cities and landmarks, convincingly rendered colonized by radical Islam. Of the five American subjects, four refer to New York: a view of the skyline sans the Twin Towers, of Central Park with Bedouins, the Guggenheim Museum with a dome, and the Statue of Liberty covered in a burka and holding a Quran. The other subjects include the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, the German Reichstag, a devastated Cologne Cathedral, Notre-Dame of Paris with burned towers, the Beaubourg, the Kremlin and Red Square, the Vienna Opera House, the Sagrada Familia, the Guggenheim Bilbao, the Sydney Opera House, views of Tel Aviv, Rome, London, Oxford, Graz, Budapest, Belgrade, Groningen, Stockholm, and an unidentified town in northern Germany. The design of the postcards referenced the controversial United Colors of Benetton advertisements that were widespread at the time, with the identifying label placed over a green stripe in the bottom left-hand corner that mimicked the brand’s visual identity.
Later in 1997, on festival Steirischer Herbst at the Neue Galerie Graz the project took on the form of a performance titled AES Travel Agency to the Future, where the artists created a credible replica of a travel agency with posters of the digital collages, as well as various souvenirs such as mugs and T-shirts. Viewers were invited to give their thoughts on this version of the future by filling out a questionnaire. The work was subsequently performed in Belgrade, Warsaw, Stockholm, Lisbon, New York, Paris, and Toulouse between 1997–2000. In 2000 a series of 18 hand-made carpets was commissioned from Bedouins in Cairo, each featuring one of the digital collages printed on silk and embedded in the center, for a new installation titled Oasis, which took the form of a traditional tent complete with Arabic music and hookah. Oasis was first shown in 2000 at the group exhibition Paysages Urbains at Le Quartier CCA in Quimper, France. The installation was later shown at a solo exhibition at Fundacion “la Caixa” in Barcelona (2002), also featuring elements from the travel agency such as T-shirts, mugs, and postcards. Since 2002 installation Oasis was also shown on exhibitions in Moscow, St. Petersburg, London, Beijing, Karlsruhe, Miami, New York, and most recently on survey exhibition AES+F. Predictions and Revelations at Manege Central Exhibition Hall, Saint Petersburg in 2019. The final component of Islamic Project, a sculpture titled Space Bedouin and depicting Osama bin Laden in an embroidered astronaut suit carrying a flag with passages from the Quran, was first shown in 2003 at the real*utopia festival in Graz and subsequently only once more as part of the AES+F retrospective at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg in 2007.